Leadership involves self-sacrifice. Everyone understands that to receive you have to give, but true leadership is above this type of barter. A genuine leader rises above self-concern entirely. He identifies totally with his people and their purpose, and is willing to give up everything for them.
Moshe Rabbeinu epitomized this type of leadership. When G-d told him that He would destroy the Jewish people because of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe responded: “If You would, forgive their sin. And if not, please obliterate me from the book You have written.”
By making this statement, Moshe offered to sacrifice more than his life; he was willing to give up even his soul. “The book You have written” refers to the entire Torah. Although Moshe is identified with the Torah, “he dedicated his soul for it,” he was, nevertheless, willing to sacrifice his connection with the Torah for the sake of Jewish people.
Why? Because Moshe is one with the Jewish people. “Moshe is Israel, and Israel is Moshe.” However deep his connection with the Torah, Moshe’s connection with the Jewish people was deeper.
-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Paradigm Of Leadership”
Commentary on Torah Portion Tetzavah
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 34ff;
Vol. XVI p. 204ff; Vol. XXI, p. 173ff;
Sefer Maamarim Melukat, Vol. VI, p. 129ff
I have heard it said that the Messiah, in being called the “Son of God,” is considered to be intimately associated with Israel. This is to the point that Messiah, for all intents and purposes, is Israel. He is the living embodiment of his people, even as Moses was, but much more so. Moses speaks about him thus:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. –Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (ESV)
Rabbi Touger speaks of Moses and how much he identified with his people Israel and how, as their leader, he was willing to surrender his life and even his soul for the sake of the Sons of Jacob. We know that he was a “good shepherd” of his people, which was a lesson learned during the many years he was a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flocks in Midian. But “the prophet” that has been raised up from among Israel is also a good shepherd.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. –John 10:14-15 (ESV)
The Master’s words are more than just words. Like Moses, he was willing to lay down his life in order to save Israel. Indeed, he did lay down his life, not because of his own will, but because of the will of the Father.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. –Luke 22:41-44 (ESV)
This is a very simple “morning meditation” and Torah commentary, but for me, it says something powerful that we often take for granted. Jesus loved his people and he loves them still. He came for the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) and because “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22) he also comes for us. Last night, I overheard my wife having a phone conversation with a friend from synagogue, and in the small part I understood, I heard my wife say that God chose the Jewish people and that they are to be a light to the nations. Jesus is the King of the Jews, and he is so much more. He is a light for Israel and as that light, he illuminates the rest of the world.
“The assembly of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be he: ‘Master of the world, in the future I will be delighted in your light because of the Torah that you gave me, which is called “fountain of life” (Psalm 36:10). What is the meaning of “in your light we see light”? For what light is Israel waiting?’ This is the light of Messiah as it says, ‘And God saw the light that it was good.’ This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be he, observed Messiah and his deeds before the creation of the world and concealed his Messiah under his throne until his generation” (Peskikta Rabbati 36).
from his forthcoming book (March 2012)
“The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources”
Messiah is a “concealed light” who will be revealed to his people in the last days. Blessed are those who have beheld his light in the current age and who have recognized him. Blessed is the Messiah, who will one day return for his people Israel, and by the grace of God, for we among the nations as well. As we continue to wait for him, Jew and Gentile, let us stand with each other and not against each other, for as he commanded, we are to love each other and in this, everyone will know we are his (John 13:34-35). This is how we are to show that his light is eternal.
When one speaks crushing words of rebuke, it must be with the sole purpose of enlightening, illuminating, and uplifting one’s fellow; never, G-d forbid, to humiliate and break him.
And from Rabbi Touger’s commentary:
This is reflected in the continuation of the charge to Moshe: “And they shall bring you clear olive oil, crushed for the lamp.” One might ask: why should the oil be brought to Moshe? It was Aharon who kindled the menorah.
The answer is found in the continuation of the verse, “to raise an eternal light.” Aharon has the potential to kindle Divine service and inspire people with light and warmth, but for the flame to burn as “an eternal light,” “from evening until morning,” Moshe’s influence is necessary. For it is Moshe that enables every Jew to tap his innermost spiritual resources and maintain a constant commitment.
If the influence of Moses kindled an eternal light by which every Jew was able to connect to his innermost spiritual resources, how much more so does the eternal light of Messiah allow every Jew and every Gentile to find the spark of the Divine within ourselves and send that light up to God.